Between worlds: the experiences and needs of former family carers

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Abstract

While the financial, physical and psycho-social burden for caregivers is recorded, less is known about the post-caring experience. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to explore the experiences and needs of Irish former family carers in the post-caring/care transitions period. Former family carers were defined as family members who provided physical and/or social care to a family member with an illness or disability in the home for at least 6 months prior to nursing home/hospice placement or death. A total of 40 family carers were recruited from members of or known to voluntary care groups/associations in Ireland. Fourteen participants took part in a focus group discussion and 26 participated in one-to-one, semi-structured interviews, all of which were undertaken in 2010. The focus group discussion focused on gaining a broad understanding of the participants' post-caring experiences and the emergent themes formed the basis for the development of a semi-structured interview guide. Data from the focus group were analysed inductively using Creswell's qualitative analysis framework, while template analysis was the method of analysis for the 26 individual interviews. For the participants in this study, post-caring was a transition that comprised three, interrelated, non-linear, iterative themes that were represented as ‘loss of the caring world’, ‘living in loss’ and ‘moving on’ and symbolised as being ‘between worlds’. Transition was a complex interplay of emotions overlaid with economic and social concerns that had implications for their sense of health and well-being. This exploratory study begins to address the dearth of data on post-caring/care experiences, but further research is needed to inform support interventions to enable former family carers to ‘move on’.

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